The Histochemical Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 89–98 | Cite as

Mercury-selenium interactions in relation to histochemical staining of mercury in the rat liver

  • Erik Baatrup
  • Ole Thorlacius-Ussing 
  • Henrik Loft Nielsen
  • Kai Wilsky


Selenium has been suggested to enhance the histochemical staining of mercury when sections of tissue are subjected to the silver-enhancement method. In the present study, histochemical staining patterns of mercury in tissue sections of rat livers were compared with the actual content of organic and inorganic Hg in the livers, in both the presence and the absence of Se. Rats were injected intravenously with 5μg of Hgg−1 body weight as methyl [203Hg] mercury chloride (MeHg) or as [203Hg]mercuric chloride (Hg2+). After 2h, half the rats received an additional intraperitoneal injection of 2μg of Se g−1 body weight as sodium [75Se]selenite. All the rats were killed 1h later. Homogenized liver samples were prepared for mercury analysis by two different methods: alkaline digestion and ultrasonic disintegration. Quantitative chemical analysis based on benzene extrction of the radioactively labelled Hg compounds showed that the chemical form of mercury, either organic or inorganic, was preserved from its administration to its deposition in the liver. Light and electron microscopy demonstrated that no silver enhancement of Hg occurred when MeHg alone was present in the sections of tissue, whereas MeHg accompanied by Se induced a moderate deposition of silver grains. In contrast, sections containing Hg2+ alone yielded some staining, and the addition of Se increased the staining dramatically. The results of the present study show that acute selenite pretreatment is a prerequisite for the histochemical demonstration of methyl mercury, and greatly increases the staining of inorganic mercury when applying the silver-enhancement method.


Mercury Selenium Selenite Methyl Mercury Histochemical Staining 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Baatrup
    • 1
  • Ole Thorlacius-Ussing 
    • 2
  • Henrik Loft Nielsen
    • 3
  • Kai Wilsky
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Zoology and ZoophysiologyUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Institute of NeurobiologyUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark
  3. 3.Institute of PhysicsUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark

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